keep the training wheels. toss the tv.

I adore my children.

I believe that most who know me, know this is true.


Lately I feel like the president of the Crappy Mom Club.

Impatient. Short fused. Ugly voice. Snapping at my kids. Forgetting gentleness. Telling them we’ll cuddle later. Yelling across the house when I hear bickering. And on and on.

There are a million things I want to blame it on. I’ve considered deleting this post a dozen times already. But this is the real. The raw. The ugly.

Last night Ezra was fighting sleep. Like always. And not listening to me. Like always. And watching a movie. Like always. And I snapped. It wasn’t kind or loving or even remotely thought through.

“Ezra! I am so sick of your attitude!”

He looked at me. Held my gaze. I saw in his eyes the same nasty glare that was in mine at that exact moment.

“I am so sick of you!”

I gasped. He quickly said, “Sorry mom!” And rolled back to his show.

I, however, was not so quick to recover. What is happening to my child? Who was that? The past couple of months I have watched him struggle to listen. Fail to obey simple instructions. I have seen him become angry. I have watched my sweet boy react physically when a friend or his brother upset him. He has started bursting into tears the second something doesn’t go his way instead of communicating with words.

And I have blamed my frustration. My stress. My bad attitude. My terrible parenting. On my kids and the way they drive me wild.

Then I felt the tap tap tap on my shoulder. The tap I hate because it means I have done something wrong. The tap I trust with my whole heart because I know it is my Jesus making me more like him.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

My sweet child. Listen to me. Those boys you love. The ones you hold so dear. They will only become the men they are meant to be if you guide them there. Speak gently. Love fiercely. Teach wisely. And live a life worthy of emulating.

Truth I already knew.
Truth I forget all too often.
Truth so heartbreaking. So convicting. So very clear.

Truth overflowing with hope.

I grasped tight. I clung desperate. I claimed that hope as my own.

In the book, Home-Making, by J.R. Miller (one of the best books ever written, in my opinion) the truth is shared as this.

“Selfishness in parents will spread the same unhappy spirit through all the household life. They must be, not in seeming but in reality, what they want their children to be. The lessons they would teach, they must live.”

Oh my heart. My aching, heavy heart.

How dare I act one way and expect my children to act another.
How dare I speak with courtesy and compassion to a stranger, yet pour my frustration out on my babies.
How dare I forget each word I utter has the power of life and death.
How dare I act like the very person I never want to be.
How dare I think I can raise Godly men without first falling daily at the feet of my Jesus.
How dare I think anything good will pour from me when my cup is dry.
How dare I give anything less than the best of me to my boys.

How gracious is my God to gently remind me. Lovingly guide me. Tirelessly teach me. How to be the mama my boys need.

Every time I think I’m ready to take the training wheels off. Think I can handle this parenting thing on my own. Think that I’ve got this.

Tap. tap. tap.
He reminds me.

Parenting always requires training wheels. We are never perfect. We never have it all figured out. And his guidance, his wisdom, his grace, his love, is how we make it through. How our children become their very best selves. How our mistakes are forgiven and relationships are restored.

I think I’ll keep those training wheels. 

I’ll choose not to become overwhelmed by how imperfect I am. How many things I need to work on. How many ways I fail. I will focus on being the best version of me I can be today. Breathing deep and asking myself,

“Is this the way I would want my children to act in this situation?”

Simple enough in theory. Overwhelmingly difficult in execution. Life changing power in this new habit.

Today is day one of this venture into more purposeful parenting. More humble loving. More depth in relationship. And within this large idea of how to be better, there are several practical changes I know we need to make in our household. Changes long thought about but too overwhelming or scary to face. Until now.

Because let’s face it. Our kids are worth being better for. No matter how hard it might seem.

So we start small. One change at a time. Change number one is an enormous thorn in my side. A terrible habit that formed slowly and gradually became a regular part of our daily routine.

Television. Way. Too. Much. Television.

Well, Netflix, YouTube Toy Reviews and Disney Movies to be exact. But too much screen time all the same.

What started as a show or two a day became much more and the worst part of this habit is that for a year or more, Ezra has fallen asleep at night while watching his beloved “calm down shows.” Sometimes it takes hours for him to fall asleep, we’re talking midnight or later, but I so desperately craved quiet time to myself, that at the time it didn’t matter what the cost. So what if he watches shows at night? It can’t be that big of a deal. Can it?

The past several weeks as I began to feel more strongly about kicking this habit of ours, I started reading articles and watching videos about the effects of too much tv and young kids brains. The science behind it has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. How easy it was to stick my kids in front of the tv and not think about how detrimental it really was because I chose not to do the research.

The more I have read. The more I have learned. And the more convinced I am that the majority of Ezra’s behavioral issues lately are a result of way too much screen time. Too much stimulation for his little brain. If this sounds dramatic, I promise you it’s not. Below I have posted a fantastic TED Talk, delivered by a doctor who has done extensive research into the effects of tv on a young brain. It is well worth your time to watch.

How could I watch that and not be changed? How could I see Ezra’s shortening attention span and his disinterest in books and games that are “boring”, and not see the connection?

I made a mistake. 

But we’re changing it. 

We have already cut tv completely out of our days, except for Hudson’s nap time when Ezra watches a couple shows. It’s been about a week and it has been ROUGH at times, but the boys have begun to engage in much more imaginative play. They are playing together more. They are creating games. They are also bickering more. But at least I know that means their minds are engaged.

Tonight is the night I have been preparing Ezra for. Tonight we are not going to watch any shows at bedtime. Him or me. I am committed to not watching shows of my own when my boys are awake, so they know this is a change for the whole family. (I’ll still watch a Star Trek episode or two after they doze off… obviously.) I need prayers for strength and resolve to not give in, but I think we’re ready and I know a couple of rough nights will be totally worth it on the other end. The next goal will be to cut out Ezra’s shows during Hudson’s nap time. My ultimate goal is not to have them never ever watch a show again. My goal is for shows to be an occasional treat. For movie nights to be something looked forward to and not expected. For interest in books and play to be chosen over the desire, or the tantrum, demanding mindless entertainment. For me to engage my kids in my daily tasks instead of having Disney Junior babysit while I clean the house.

Even reading those goals I get a little overwhelmed. My palms are sweaty. I’m a tad nauseous. But I mean it. I’m sticking to it. And if you want to follow our journey, or even better, want to join in (we’re stronger in numbers) visit or share on the tag #purposefullyunplugged on Instagram.

Thank you Jesus for grace.

the pursuit of joy.

It happens at a different point in time for each of us. For some, the realization comes much earlier than it should. For some it happens later in life, but it eventually happens for everyone. Whether it’s an illness, or an accident, or divorce, or addiction or a natural disaster, we all must eventually stare reality in the face.

Life is fragile.

Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed by the brokenness of this world, I think back to those precious, beautiful days of childhood when all I needed to feel safe and secure was to know that my mom and dad were asleep on the other side of the wall. I knew that if I needed to I could slip out of bed and climb in between them and all would be right in the world once again.

Now I am the parent, and nearly every night I find myself waking up to my sons clumsy, sleepy movements as he tries to climb into bed with us. The second he is snug between mom and dad, usually with a leg shoved under me and an arm draped across my face, he drifts back to sleep, reassured that his world is secure.

Oftentimes, after he has fallen back to sleep, I find myself restless, plagued by worries, anxieties, stresses and what ifs. None of which I can control, a reality that just causes more fear. As I lie awake worrying, my son sleeps, blissfully unaware.

I can’t ever go back to being that innocent, naive, blissfully unaware child that was certain of her safety as long as her parents were surrounding her. And I cannot keep my kids from eventually growing up and realizing that life is, indeed, fragile. Nor can I protect them from ever feeling any hurt or pain. That might be the hardest reality to accept as a parent, our inability to protect our children from the evils of this world.

And if this were the end, if these realities were the only realities, then the evils of this world might just win. I might just not ever be able to drag myself out of bed again, I might have to give up because the weight of the problems in this world would be too much to bear. I might have to take my family and run away to a cabin in the most remote place I could imagine and lock all the doors to try to keep my precious ones safe.

Thank goodness there is another reality.

There is a God who loves us and who created us to live abundantly and love deeply. He does not promise that there will not be struggle and heartbreak and pain, but he does promise that through all of those things, he will carry us.

I tend to forget this reality all to often. I tend to see the reality of my situation, of my health, of my limitations, of the awful things happening in this world, and I get overwhelmed. I lose hope. I forget to trust. And worst of all, I stop living. I go through the motions, I function, sort of, but I am not living and loving and laughing and dancing and experiencing the fullness of this life that God gave me.

And then I look at my boys.

I see their childlike faith, their innocent trust and their ability to find absolute JOY in the smallest of things.

And I am ashamed because my children are living life the way that God intended for it to be and I am not.

Today I thought about the silly tradition of New Years resolutions. I thought about how every year I make some ridiculous, overly detailed, lofty resolution for myself and then by Feb 1 I have forgotten what my resolution even was. I sat on the bed and asked my Jesus what kind of goal I could even set for myself this year with two young kids and health issues that never seem to go away, how could I possibly plan for anything let alone set a goal and keep it?

The answer was immediate.


That was it.

I waited, thinking surely there was more.

There wasn’t.

PURSUE is a verb. It means to follow someone or something to catch them.

JOY is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness.

So my New Years resolution is to PURSUE JOY, to CATCH HAPPINESS.

Sounds silly, frivolous even. But it resonated with me on a very deep level and tears ran down my face.

I love my life and I am very blessed in so many different ways, but the last few years have beaten me up, worn me down, and left me struggling to find joy more often than I’d care to admit. I didn’t mean to lose my joy, I didn’t mean to stop laughing, life just sort of snuck up from behind and stole them from me. Of course I have moments of wonderful happiness and my boys bring me laughter and joy every day, but the joy, the laughter, that comes from a soul that is alive and well, not weary and waiting for the next bad thing to happen, that was gone. And I had stopped searching for it, assuming that I would have to learn how to live without it. I spent most of the day in tears today, realizing how much that the past four years has stolen from me. Realizing that I have allowed myself to stop hoping for anything better, resigning myself to the fact this was my life now. And always would be.

But there were those words again…



I was expecting to cut out sugar or stop eating fast food. Those things would be a piece of cake compared to this.

Today God used one of my very best friends to remind me who I am, and that although illness and struggle and grief have stolen so much from me, who I am is not gone, but I have to fight to get her back. That’s what this resolution is all about. To pursue, to catch… those words are a call to action. Calling ME to action. I can’t sit around waiting for healing and total health before I do it. I can’t wait for life to be easy to do it. I can’t tell God I’ll do it when I have more energy, or time or when the world isn’t such a mess. I can’t wait for things to be perfect before I start living again.

So, in 19 minutes 2013 begins and so does my pursuit.

And as I begin to feel overwhelmed, wondering how I can pursue and live a lifestyle of joy when so much still seems difficult, my dads words from one of his final sermons are running on repeat through my mind.

“Anger and sorrow, joy and hope, can be intermingled.”

Life does not have to be perfect to have joy. Difficulties and heartbreak will still happen and those emotions are very real, but God promises that he is our comforter and that his mercies are new every morning, and that his JOY is our STRENGTH.

What a spectacular promise.

What a wonderful God.

No two people have the exact same struggles or stresses or anxieties or fears. But we all have the same God who offers us the same gift of abundant life filled with joy and peace, if we just choose to trust him. I would challenge you as this new year starts to make a conscious decision to pursue joy, no matter what your circumstances may be. Pursue it, catch it, and see how your life changes.

Here’s to 2013 and pursuing joy in a fragile world.